The Department of Environment and Paul Allen’s company Vulcan, Inc., on Friday announced the completion of a joint restoration project aimed at helping to speed the recovery of coral in West Bay damaged by Mr. Allen’s yacht in January.
A part of the reef in the West Bay Replenishment Zone was damaged when Mr. Allen’s mega-yacht, Tatoosh, dropped anchor in the area. The damaged area covered 13,000 square feet of reef, equivalent to an Olympic-size swimming pool.
While the Department of Environment and Vulcan initially clashed over the size and scale of the restoration job, the two parties agreed in February to the joint emergency restoration plan, and began work triaging the affected coral and stabilizing the reef structure.
Members of the Polaris Applied Sciences team, contracted by Vulcan to implement the plan, spent 300 hours over the course of 24 days working to rebuild and restabilize the impacted area.
During this time, the team reattached approximately 1,600 organisms, including 429 hard corals measuring over 20 centimeters in diameter, 966 hard corals less than 20 centimeters in diameter, and 208 soft corals and sponges, according to a joint statement released by Vulcan and the Cayman Islands Government.
The restoration required more than 30 tons of cement and sand, along with eight tons of rubble.
The work was completed on March 28, under the oversight of Harold Hudson, an expert in restoration of coral habitats, who formerly worked for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Mr. Hudson advised and assisted the Polaris team throughout the project.
“The reef remediation by Polaris was an experience-based approach to help minimize the damage and improve the likelihood of coral recovery in the area,” Mr. Hudson said in the release. “The swift implementation of this plan provides the greatest chance for recovery of the affected area and I commend both Vulcan and the DoE for their efforts to help ensure its rapid completion.”
The Department of Environment also hired a coral restoration expert, William Precht, to assist with project oversight. Mr. Precht, of Dial Cordy and Associates, Inc. in Miami, will undertake the long-term monitoring of the restored site to evaluate the efficacy of the restoration effort performed by Polaris.
The department and Mr. Precht have inspected the site and are “satisfied” that the project was performed to the agreed specifications, according to the joint statement.
In order to complete the plan, workers had to triage the affected corals, uprighting, uncovering, securing and moving viable corals to safe locations while the reef structure was stabilized.
Then, larger rubble accumulations had to be removed or stabilized, to prevent continued and future damage. Some rubble was incorporated to help recreate and retain the original reef structure.
While recreating the lost reef structure, workers tried to reduce any unnatural appearance of scraping or scarring.
When the triage and reef structure restoration was completed workers then began the process of rescuing and reattaching living coral and other living organisms in order to reduce the time it will take for the site and its ecosystem to be fully restored.
The statement continued: “Both the DoE and Vulcan have worked hard to ensure that the implementation of the plan reflects the best international standards for restoration of coral habitats and are pleased by the completion of the work and the joint partnership that made it possible.”